“YOU ARE THE GREATEST TEACHER” Ron Hevener (Author, “Fate of the Stallion” and “The Blue Ribbon”)
Having a stable and loving horses, I’m lucky enough to meet a lot of people they are important to; people from all walks of life. Today, the horses we love and care for have a great affect on how we look at the world around us. Horses are in the news, in movies, books, and all kinds of advertisements. What is their appeal? We know the answer to that. Horses appeal to every sense we have, from visual to touch, and the magical result is the most powerful appeal of all … emotional.
Forget about the evolutionary history of horses and worrying about how they may have come into being. Forget about making television documentaries about which breed was the “Original Horse” and traveling to exotic places to find the last remaining members of that breed on Earth. That’s all grand in a National Geographic kind of way, but the truth is lost in so many forgotten memories that it doesn’t matter to the horse in your life right now. What matters is the diversity of this species, and the possibility that there was no single original breed.
Do I believe in spontaneous genetics and things like that? Oh, yes; very much so. I also believe the emotional make-up of a living creature, and its mentality, are affected by its physical appearance. But, that could be years of horse shows, raising foals, or the artist in me speaking.
We all know our own personalities can rub off on our horses. We know horses are different from dogs or cats or birds and other animals in their basic nature. Along those lines, customers at our stable often ask which horse is the ruler, which is the most loving or which is the most playful. Sometimes, when looking at a horse and searching for an emotional connection customers will ask how I think the horse will turn out for them. When I say it depends on them more than anything else, they are often surprised. “The horse is going to learn from you,” I say. “You are the greatest teacher.”
When I say, “You are the greatest teacher” I’m not speaking about rigid discipline such as one endures in riding classes. And, maybe “rigid” isn’t the right word for that, but I think it illustrates the difference between fundamental training and the invisible “something” that develops between you and your horse just by traveling the same path in life. In my novel “Fate of the Stallion,” that mysterious bond is expressed in a scene where Dan Marshall senses the presence of an Arabian stallion running along the river beside him. The horse seems to be calling him, as if saying “Find me! I am yours!” and the story reveals the parallels of their lives, showing how man and stallion share the same fate. Likewise, in “The Blue Ribbon” a novel set in the competitive world of dog shows, there is a scene called “Miles To Go.” In this scene, Robert Sheffield, a dog show judge loved by two different women who own rival kennels, is hiking in the Canadian woods with his dog, reflecting on love. If you’ll notice, the path in the woods symbolizes Robert’s own path in life, and his dog is right there beside him. Like many of us do, Robert is thinking to his dog in a mental conversation, wondering if he has made the right decision by letting the woman he really loves slip through his fingers. Among the trees, the dog sees a deer, runs after it, but, of course, the deer gets away. “She got away?” Robert asks. “It’s OK, fella. We’ve got miles to go.” In those miles, will there be other deer? Will they see the same deer again? I wasn’t sure when I wrote that scene how it would turn out.
Animals have an emotional appeal that covers our widest range of feeling. In my writing, whether about horses or dogs, the stories often deal with keeping our sense of love alive. Over and over again, at book signings and lectures, I am asked “What does keeping love alive matter to a man like you, who has everything he could possibly want and more than he can handle? I guess my reputation for playfulness has something to do with that. Surely, someone like me doesn’t have a care in the world! I say this with tongue in cheek, of course. Married at nineteen, a father soon after that and selling my artwork as souvenirs to tourists, you could say I’ve been around the block a few times. In fact, I’d say I’ve been around the block and all over the neighborhood! I’ve met many people in that neighborhood and I’ve come to believe our ability to love is eroded by the rotten things that happen to us. It is also nurtured by anything that makes us feel good and important, like our horses.
As an artist, my studio has been committed to uplifting, encouraging work such as the Hevener figurines and paintings for over thirty years now. Very few animal lovers are not familiar with our collectible figurines with their open expressions and smiling faces. Even The Antiques Road Show has featured them. And all of our figurines, prints, books or CDs are made in honor of the animals who keep alive our ability to love, in a world where it is very difficult to do so.
Let’s talk about that world.
Today, we are facing a crumbling economy. Let me rephrase that. We’re not facing a crumbling economy; we’re in it. Just about everywhere we turn, something is falling apart. All of us know people who have lost their jobs. All of us see businesses closing. All of us see odd legislation being passed – things we never would have considered before the day in September that changed it all. There is a sense of uneasiness around us. And it’s growing. As we deal with serious issues more and more, as our families fracture and our natures become more hardened, our pets become a comfort to us and sometimes the only way to keep our hearts open.
At a recent high school appearance, I spoke in the auditorium about the many things people can do with their lives; the many adventures they can have in the creative fields I know something about. Publishing, the record business, television, movies, horse racing, dog shows, horse shows, the art world; surely I could open doors for them in an exciting array of life’s opportunities. But, looking around that auditorium, I saw no spark of interest or imagination. As we left that school, I said to my assistant, “Maxine, this is the first time I can ever remember not even reaching one soul.” And I asked myself what kind of society would want zombie-like citizens such as I had just seen. Was it an “inner city” school I had just been to? Yes. Was it New York or Chicago or Philadelphia? No. It was a school in the town of Lancaster, Pennsylvania; in the county known for its industrious Pennsylvania Dutch; the county in which I live. Were they Pennsylvania Dutch kids I was speaking with? No, they were not. In much the same way that Hawaii was invaded by outsiders and the values of its native population changed forever, Lancaster County has changed and I doubt if there was even one student of Pennsylvania Dutch background in that school. This is serious. It’s why teachers are giving up. And it has happened in our lifetime!
The hopelessness of those students mirrored the hopelessness of their homes. But I knew these kids had pets at home, too. How did I know? I asked them. In a show of hands, reluctant at first, I had found out how many had horses, dogs, cats, fish and other pets. And I thought to myself, this is the first thing they’re responding to. In a world where so much is out of their control, they don’t feel like they can reach the lofty things I’m talking about and maybe they can’t. But they can have an influence on their pets, and that’s a start.
Today, right now, our horses are more important than ever. In order to keep horses and take care of them, we have to provide for them. To provide for your horse, you have to buy feed and pay board. Which feed is best, you wonder? Which boarding facility is right for me?
You must pick a veterinarian for your horse. Who is the best vet around, you ask?
If you want to breed your mare, you must find a stallion. Where do I find the perfect match, you ask, searching out national registry for your breed.
When the foal is born, it’s one of the most magical experiences of your life. You’ll always remember it. Now, you must raise this new foal and for the next couple of months you will do everything you can to raise it well. You’ll have paper work to fill out: a registration and pedigree to prepare and sign. You’ll meet new people when families come to meet this new foal you brought into the world. Everywhere your horse takes you, there are other horse people talking things over. Before you know it, you have found a lifestyle and a reason to live like no other.
That school of the zombies? It took me a while, but I finally figured it out. They didn’t want to see an author that day. They wanted a ray of hope. I guess I should have brought a horse with me.
Next time, I’ll remember that.
Submitted for and reproduced with the permission of the author -